Lucinda Davis, Alex Macooeye
(photo: David Babcock)
by Amy Barratt
For the final offering in its 30th anniversary “celebrating art” season, Geordie productions has chosen a play about a Classical composer dead nigh unto 200 years. Wow, Dean Patrick Fleming, way to appeal to the Mario Kart generation.
Of course, Artistic Director Fleming, like Charles Schultz’s toy-piano playing prodigy, knows better than to try to compete with whatever technology or fad the kids are chewing up and spitting out this week. Geordie has always understood that to cultivate an audience you just have to make the best theatre you can, as theatrically as you can.
Beethoven Lives Upstairs is fine theatre by any standard. From the dramatic lighting by Thomas Godefroid, to the minimal but highly effective set by James Lavoie, to Amy Keith’s costumes to the intricate puppets designed and built by Jesse Orr, Beethoven is a delight to the eye. Peter Cerone’s sound design works in many of Ludwig’s greatest hits alongside crying babies and crashing thunder.
With very few lines, McCooeye is called upon to use his whole body to convey character, and he does, with great conviction.
The story, largely narrated by 10-year-old Christoph in letters written to his uncle, is set at a time when Ludwig Van Beethoven’s reputation was firmly established and when his hearing was severely deteriorated but not completely gone. The restless composer has rented the upstairs of Christoph’s house, formerly his late father’s office, and is working on what will become the Ninth Symphony. The boy is initially bothered and downright alarmed by this intruder, who stomps around and makes weird noises night and day.
Casting Lucinda Davis as the talkative Cristoph is a theatrical choice. I asked my 8-year-old son on the way home from the show if he thought they should have had a real boy play the role, and he said, no, she acted it very well. She is all the more believable in the role when placed next to tall, lanky Alex McCooeye as Beethoven. The two develop a real rapport over the course of the play. With very few lines, McCooeye is called upon to use his whole body to convey character, and he does, with great conviction.
On the drive home I was raving about a simple stage effect where a large piece of blue cloth is made to simulate a running brook...
There were several big physical bits that got the kids in the audience laughing, most involving the eccentric composer, one involving the boy trying to get the hard-of-hearing lodger’s attention. Leni Parker, playing the boy’s mother and sundry other female characters, makes something out of every little moment she has, whether it’s animating a life-size dog puppet, or getting five or six laughs out of the word “please”. Quincy Armorer brings lots of warmth to an uncle who might have come across as lecturing. Eric Hausknost rounds out the multi-tasking cast as Beethoven’s friend Schindler, and various other be-wigged Viennese.
On the drive home I was raving about a simple stage effect where a large piece of blue cloth is made to simulate a running brook. It is draped over the platform and stairs that form the main set and Beethoven and Christoph stand at the top overlooking this water . My son understood the desired effect perfectly but couldn’t understand why they had their feet in water. Kids, they’re the toughest critics.
Beethoven Lives Upstairs continues to May 22 at Centaur. Tickets from Geordie 514-845-9810. Running time one hour.